Learning patterns/Appreciation of volunteer work II: make it tangible
What problem does this solve?
Volunteers are the heart of the Wikimedia movement, contributing to Wikipedia, Commons and other Wikimedia projects worldwide every day in many different ways. While not everybody might have the same reasons for doing so, we all have in common that we are driven by some sort of motivation. Without it, people would simply stop volunteering. This is why staying motivated is crucial. First and foremost, motivation comes from within oneself. There are also external factors affecting a person’s motivation - one important factor contributing to motivation is knowing that your work is appreciated and valued. And here’s where we can step in as volunteer supporters from Wikimedia organizations.
Telling someone that you appreciate his or her work is one thing. Sometimes it can be helpful to symbolize your appreciation with something tangible. What can you do?
What is the solution?
Give-aways and prizes: even though they are “nice to haves”, they can be wonderful small tokens of appreciation. You could for example:
- Provide rewards or offer small prizes (for on-wiki competitions such as Wikipedia writing contests, photo contests and others) which have a clear connection to Wikimedia volunteering, e.g. by Wikipedia branding or like book vouchers for article writing etc.
- Produce branded give-aways for your Wikimedia communities (this could be anything from t-shirts to pens, sweets, postcards or stickers).
- Print flyers or postcards for volunteers’ projects or send seasonal greetings/postcards to volunteers or surprise them with postcards or photo calendars showing their Commons pictures. (But don’t mess with the credits. Your way of handling free licences can be understood either as appreciation or as the opposite.)
- If you have a large community of local volunteers, a volunteer appreciation event can be a nice way of building community among your volunteers. To motivate your volunteers, you can have a minimum threshold of activity required for attendance at the event. Getting food or space donated by a volunteer or supporter can be a good way to make these events more economical. Gathering volunteers across a larger geographical area is generally cost-prohibitive.
- A raffle can be a fun way of offering more costly appreciation gifts or prizes to volunteers without breaking the bank, and can be especially fun at an event, or especially economical if you have a sponsor who is willing to donate prizes on these occasions.
Things to consider
- These tangible signs of appreciation can also raise expectations in the long run. It can be difficult to skip or reduce them once you established them. If you gave a Christmas present to your volunteers one year, they would most likely expect you to do so every year from now on. If you give it a little thought though, giveaways can be a great way of showing volunteers your appreciation.
- It’s not always easy to find the right balance between the symbolic nature of give-aways and their value in terms of money and design. On one hand, the give-aways or prizes should never be considered as a sort of compensation for volunteer work. You don’t “pay” your volunteers with give-aways or prizes. On the other hand, your volunteer community expects a professional and thoughtful approach from you. You won’t get away with cheap-looking, easy-to-buy stuff.
- Volunteers will often appreciate thoughtful gifts that are relevant to their work or the causes they care about, even if these gifts are not frequent or expensive. As with your friends and family, knowing your volunteers well will help you select thoughtful gifts for them. Some Wikimedia contributors, for example, especially appreciate gifts or prizes that can aid them in their work, such as books, subscriptions, book vouchers, museum passes, or scholarships to attend relevant events.
When to use
- This is a very useful strategy, when executed well. Thanks for creating this pattern, DACH friends :) Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 23:21, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
- Appreciation of volunteer work I: give individual feedback
- Appreciation of volunteer work III: let others know
- Appreciation of volunteer work IV: towards a culture of appreciation
- Contests, giveaways and sweepstakes
- Wikimedia Polska's approach to countering volunteer burnout through volunteer tracking, recognition, mindfulness, fun and cultivating a community culture of care, as shared during Wikimania 2021